Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ number one offense will have their hands full this week as they take on the NFL’s best defense belonging to the New England Patriots. Stephon Gilmore and company will be looking to play spoiler to Prescott’s newfound MVP consideration. Expect all eyes to be on this game as Dallas and New England tout two of the biggest fan bases throughout the league. Maybe, more importantly, the two most powerful and influential owners in today’s NFL.
Dak Prescott has gone from game manager to league MVP candidate overnight. Struggling to find consistency and rhythm on the ground, Dak has stepped up to take charge of America’s Team. Prescott leads the league in passing yards, yards per game, and yards per attempt. His quarterback rating is second and tied for second in passing touchdowns.
Dallas holds the top spot in almost every passing category there is thanks to the emergence of Prescott and first year coordinator, Kellen Moore. If the Cowboys are going to win this game, it will most likely be on Prescott’s arm as lesser opponents have held Zeke in check. Still, don’t expect Dallas to abandon the run. Look for Dallas to hammer the line of scrimmage to set up the deep ball as Dak leads the league for plays of 20-plus yards and tied for first in plays of 40-plus yards.
Roller Coaster Defense
Dallas’ young defense has had a year of highs and lows coming into week 12. The Cowboys have the 7th ranked defense, which matches up against well against the Patriots’ 16th ranked offense. Where the Cowboys have been vulnerable is on the ground. They rank in the middle of the pack at 14th. Opponents have been able to obtain 100 or more yards in seven of the ten games against Dallas this year. With Leighton Vander Esch sidelined, look for New England to lean on the ground game. Demarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and company must apply pressure fly to the ball to keep Julian Edelman and Tom Brady in check.
Key to Victory
For the Cowboys to leave Foxborough with a win, one thing must happen. Dallas must get off to a quick start. To accomplish this, Kellen Moore needs to let Prescott improvise at the line of scrimmage reading the defense. Teams usually “script” the first 15 plays on offense or so, and the Cowboys are no different. Week-in and week-out Dallas’ offense has been criticized for its slow starts. America’s team has an abysmal -22-point differential in the first quarter compared to +111 during the remainder of the game.
While executing the opening “script” of the game, Dak has a completion percentage of 58.2%, a quarterback rating of 63, and a touchdown percentage of 1.3. Unscripted, Prescott boasts a 70.3% completion rate, quarterback rating of 115.5, and a touchdown percentage of 6.5. If Dallas can execute in the first quarter, look for them to end the Patriots 20-game win streak at home.
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